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Pushing the boundaries of Business Intelligence

Thu 18 Jun 2020 | Mathias Golombek

Exasol CTO Matthias Golombek says businesses need to shift from being data-led to data-driven, and start innovating and experimenting with a new breed of powerful BI tools

Business intelligence (BI) is the cornerstone of modern business – enabling organisations to analyse information through technology and best practices to help executives, managers and other corporate end users make informed business decisions. But it’s not enough for companies to be data-led – especially in the current pandemic.

Organisations today need to be proactively data-driven and have a comprehensive view of their data – using it to drive change, eliminate inefficiencies, and quickly adapt to market or supply changes.

With 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created each day, a data analytics database is a powerful tool that goes way beyond traditional BI to give businesses greater predictive decision-making power based on real-time insights.

Evolving existing BI technologies and strategies into a data analytics-based approach allows businesses to identify new ways to increase profits, analyse customer behaviour, optimise operations, predict success and ultimately support smarter decision-making.

Securing a live connection

Having the right database in place is crucial to enabling this data-analytics based approach. Less sophisticated databases rely on pre-aggregated data, which hinders the quality of the insights.

But, if companies are using one or more BI tool and are looking to perform more advanced data analyses, then a live connection to an in-memory database is key. With this comes speed, efficiency, compatibility and real-time access to information – opening the doors to a number of new possibilities.

This means more complex analyses can be performed faster and away from the tool the business is viewing its queries on. A BI tool generates the query, sends it to the database, receives the results and then renders them in the chosen format – all in a matter of seconds.

There’s no need for coding to activate a live connection either, meaning users can drill down into the data straight off the bat. On top of that, built-in intelligent algorithms monitor usage and perform self-tuning tasks, so database administrators are freed up to work on more high-value projects — which can increase productivity and reduce total cost of ownership (TCO).

The power of predictive analytics

Generating a live connection between BI tools and an in-memory database can be powerful for businesses who are looking to garner insights from predictive analytics – whether that’s projecting future sales, analysing customer behaviour or forecasting demographic trends.

In retail, predictive analytics can help retailers tackle issues before they rise – both in-store and online. For example, stores such as Target, CVS, Nordstrom and Walmart use sensors and beacons to track customer journeys and interactions to identify pain points and alter store layouts or increase staff headcount – all based on data insights.

While online, prices can be analysed and dynamically adjusted in near real-time according to website activity, competitor pricing, product availability, item preferences, order history, expected profit margins and more.

The right database can also guarantee an excellent user experience through fast load times (i.e. no buffering or delays), highly responsive filters and actions. For example, Badoo, one of the world’s most popular dating apps, analyses 350 terabytes of data that includes six billion events per day (e.g. views, swipes and completed/abandoned payment transactions) — which is equivalent to more than one event per user per second.

Insights gathered by Badoo lead to improvements for app users thanks to fast, real-time machine learning models. These encourage upgrades to the full version of the app and predict churn, detect anomalies and predict payments for quick transactions and issue solving.

The move to data-driven

Data inefficiencies should no longer be holding businesses back. BI reporting lives and dies with the performance of the database, especially in fast-paced environments where real-time or near real-time insights are required.

These timely nuggets of information for decision-making are pivotal in helping businesses maximise the ROI of their analytics investment – not only to deliver business-critical insights day in, day out, but also to adapt to evolving business needs.

Modern BI tools provide the ‘smart’ and the in-memory database the ‘fast’, with a toolkit to manipulate and visualise the underlying data at speed.

To stay competitive, businesses need to make the shift to becoming data-driven not just data-led, and start pushing the boundaries of what can be done with BI tools to open up new, commercially valuable insights.

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